I have never posted a picture of Brandon’s wife before. I only have a few pictures left that I have not cut her out. These photos only represent to me a happier time, and they never hinted at what was to come. Natalie is the child M. had with another man (they never married) and Brandon and M. married when Natalie was 19 mos. old. She was one month shy of her 10th birthday when Brandon died. He was a real father to her and more of a father than her mother was a mother. A whole other story to be written at a later date. As for our relationship with Natalie, we have always considered her our granddaughter. I have never referred to her as our “step” granddaughter. I don’t like the impersonal implications of that word. She is a part of our family. I have to admit that our relationship with her now is distant in some ways. She is totally enamored of her mother who is a depressed and needy woman and always has been. A death knell in a marriage…in more ways than can be imagined. Natalie seems to be a caregiver now to her needy mother. By that I mean emotional caregiver.
Our Easters through the years have been about church, big lunches with ham and potato salad…veggies from my in-law’s garden….hunting colorful eggs, plastic and real, Easter baskets filled with jelly beans, M&M’s, creme filled eggs, the usual solid chocolate bunny nestled in green or pink shiny shredded grass….and then the children grew up and the grandchildren came along…more shredded grass and chocolate bunnies….oh, did I forget the marshmallow chicks? The tradition continued.
As a mom who has saved EVERYTHING from the childhood of my children, I still have Brandon’s Easter basket. I gave my daughters theirs. I have a very sentimental heart. I even have one of my own stuffed animals from my childhood Easter. Looking back to a time when I asked Brandon if he wanted all those saved things…he said, “No.” I guess it was for good reason because now they mean so much more than just some stuff I saved for whatever reason a mother saves these things. They are mementos from days that I long for and days that are seared into my memory. Those days were not wasted on me because I always knew that we were making memories. I just did not think it would be bittersweet. I was thinking that maybe it was for my children to one day look back with fond memories of the life their parents gave to them and the joy they gave to us. It was never meant to be me pining for my boy and my life taking a turn for the worst.
My grandchildren are all grown…Mariah, the youngest, is 12 yrs. old. She is still very much a child and we still do kid things but it is different now because the others…(ages 21, 17, and 15) do not participate for obvious reasons and Mariah is the last one. She is a “Tween” and will one day hand over her Easter basket for more mature things. Her mother will probably tuck the basket in the closet for future days when Mariah is a mother. As for my husband, me and my daughters….we still like to hide the eggs from one another!! Some kids never grow up. Thank God. I am so glad the grandkids still like to eat, though. They still like chocolate, too.
Traditions are vulnerable when a family member tragically dies. We try to continue but find that doing those same things that used to be done when that family member was here are almost unbearable. The first few years emphasize their absence and as the years continue the hole is still there and you realize it is not going away. The “new normal” is taking affect.
Brandon, I know that your Easters are every day now. Life for you has changed to Forever. Your painting of Christ on the cross is a constant reminder of how much you loved us and how much Jesus loves you and all of us. I love you and miss you.